Saturday, June 20, 2015


Hutton Players at the Brentwood Theatre

Ray Cooney is the king of low farce, a genre that seems very dated these days. But, like the equally improbable Restoration Comedy, given a strong cast and determined direction it can still give an audience a jolly good evening out.
And so it proves on the Brentwood stage, with June Fitzgerald's pacy production zipping through the preposterous plot with breathtaking audacity. It's the usual tottering edifice of lies and deception erected to conceal old-fashioned infidelity with a nubile secretary.
The solid company is led by William Wells as the amusingly named Richard Willey, a junior minister – or PM's lapdog - in John Major's government. An absolute master of the style, with voice, timing and double-takes honed and polished to perfection. His sidekick – the hapless PPS George Pigden – is in the equally safe hands of Gary Ball; their work together is satisfyingly assured: the business with the mysterious stiff – a private dick, it turns out, played by Justin Cartledge – is priceless.
Romy Brooks looks and sounds convincing as the seductive socialist totty, Ben Martins rages as her jealous husband. A nice understated performance from Richard Spong as the obliging bell-hop in the Westminster Hotel, in whose snazzy suite, with its dodgy sash window, the action takes place.
Not without a few technical hitches, though the window itself, punctuating the quick-fire dialogue, behaved well. Not sure about leaving the 90s for “the present” - as usual mobile phones are the stumbling block – and the British Museum hasn't had a Reading Room since 1997.
But a fine revival of a classic of its kind, complete with dropped trousers and saucy glimpses of bare buttocks – never ask me whose …

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